Copyright 2002 www.variety.com

[ January 18th 2002 ]

A decade ago not many dance bands bothered with albums. Back then, dance music was all about smash hit singles -songs that dominated dancefloors for months, crashed in and out of the pop charts, turned up later on a couple of club compilations, then vanished to the vaults of dance history.

By the mid-1990s, however, dance artists' albums were all over the place, though most weren't worth the plastic they were pressed on. To succeed bands had to expand their sound, rifle through old records for other influences and, most importantly, make music that was both pumping enough for dancefloors and melodic enough to listen to at home.

It's no surprise then that the best dance artists tend to be well-educated, rather boring boys obsessed with new technology. Which pretty much sums up the Chemical Brothers. Former history students who met in the early 1990s at Manchester University, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons are the sort who spend hours in the studio getting a drum sound just right or tweaking the frequency of beats. Then they'll seek out obscure samples and mess with them so much that you can't tell where they came from. The result is Come With Us (Virgin), their fourth studio album and a record that already sounds like one of the highlights of 2002.

The music has a retro-futuristic feel. Come With Us, the album opener, begins with a booming voice over frantic, sampled strings. "Come with us and leave your Earth behind/Bright and clear/We see the light/All the universe is at your side ..." Thundering beats drop in and out, there's a bit of Bootsy-like disco-funk, some rigid techno, an acid xylophone (you'll know what I mean when you hear it) and what sounds like a little army of aliens shouting "What? What? What?".

The Chemical Brothers might not be the most effervescent people in pop, but thankfully on record they have a healthy sense of humour. On the one hand, their songs are a brutally efficient amalgam of different dance trends. On the other, there is always a dollop of old-fashioned soul and enough silly sounds, samples and handclaps to stop the songs becoming too serious.

It Began in Afrika takes in tribal drums, rattling percussion, squalling techno, deep dub, rave whistles and an Afrika-ka-ka-ka sample. Like most of the songs on the album, it changes pace and pitch several times over, leaving you wondering if maybe you have skipped on to the next song. Then there is Galaxy Bounce, which was featured on last year's Tomb Raider soundtrack. This is old-school Chemicals, irresistible electro-disco that shoots the 1970s into the 21st century and urges you to go out clubbing immediately.

Elsewhere, the current single Star Guitar borrows beats and a buzzy bassline from New Order, throws in a whispered female vocal sample and switches between Orb-like ambience and frantic, arms-in-the-air techno. The moody Hoops takes the tempo down briefly with an acoustic guitar-backed intro but, before you know it, turns into galloping disco. Meanwhile, Denmark boasts bells, whistles and bass in what sounds like a crazy tribute to primetime Prince, and Pioneer Skies evokes a hazy Ibiza sunrise.

The two most straightforward songs on Come With Us are those featuring the guest vocalists Beth Orton and Richard Ashcroft. The former, The State We're In, lays Orton's ethereal vocals over a stoned soundscape. The latter, The Test, is the album's only real disappointment. Ashcroft tries too hard to be Mick Jagger and the result is oddly uninvolving. Still, The Test is the final track on the album, so you can always skip it and go back to the beginning.

Copyright (c) 2000 - 2023 tombraiderchronicles.com
tombraiderchronicles.com is not owned or operated by CDE Entertainment Ltd.
Lara Croft and Tomb Raider are trademarks of CDE Entertainment Ltd.
Materials in this web site are trademarked and copyrighted properties of their respective owners.